Urban and Urbanization

Homeless shelters and the blues

In this article, I analyze the emergence of New York City’s infrastructure of homeless shelters dialectically, relationally, and historically. The members of Boogie Down Productions met in an incipient New York City homeless shelter in the mid-1980s. Their relationship and music is a window into a critical political consciousness of men living in homeless shelters because the artists gave expression to an emergent structure of feeling of resistance taking hold during intense changes to New York’s political economy and its institutions. The paper first analyzes homeless policy and infrastructural change through a reading of archival sources and government reports and documents. The second section understands oral histories conducted with men living in a New York City homeless shelter as blues geographies—insurgent, critical explanations of these institutional spaces. Shelter residents actively challenge the material conditions, relations, and values that produce homeless shelters as essential instruments of the carceral state. I argue that they activate this resistance to the naturalization of shelters, and themselves as homeless, by narrating carceral spaces as abolitionist spaces.

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Volume 40 Issue 2

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